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Crematoriums in China struggle to keep up with rising number of COVID deaths

As China continues to grapple with a surge of COVID cases since the sudden turn away from its stringent zero COVID policy, funeral parlors are the latest industry to be overwhelmed, Bloomberg reports. Inundated with an unprecedented number of corpses, one funeral home in Shanghai has resorted to allowing families 10 minutes or less to mourn.

Longhua Funeral Home posted public notices that explained that the crematorium received over 500 corpses in one day, which one funeral attendee said was about five times what the facility typically handles. Hundreds of people waited for hours before they were allowed to mourn their family members in a brief no-frills ceremony in an overcrowded room. The crematorium laid the bodies out in body bags on stretchers for the stark ceremony, per Bloomberg

"The whole system is paralyzed right now," a Longhua employee told Bloomberg. "Things here are busier than anyone can handle."

Funeral homes throughout the country report similar issues as families struggle to secure a spot for their loved ones to be cremated, and workers sometimes work overnight to keep up with the onslaught of dead bodies. Employees from funeral homes in Beijing and Shanghai told Bloomberg that those requesting a cremation date may have to wait until mid-January. In some cities, scalpers are taking advantage of the system to sell spots in the queue for funeral services, overcharging families desperate to lay their loved ones to rest. 

While many of the country's funeral facilities are at capacity, the actual number of COVID-related deaths after China's sudden reopening remains a mystery. The central government only acknowledges pneumonia or respiratory failure deaths for its official COVID death toll, excluding patients with pre-existing conditions. Since President Xi Jinping's administration announced the unraveling of its zero COVID policy on Dec. 6, China's National Health Commission has only acknowledged six new coronavirus deaths, per Business Insider